That’s Risotto

October 14, 2010 at 12:01 PM (Uncategorized) (, )

So I thought this blog would serve as a nice outlet during these crazy campaign days, but when it gets as busy as it has been up here in New Hampshire blogging is just not an option!  It’s a shame too because I’ve found a couple nights where I could actually cook up a storm!  The campaign’s over Nov. 2nd so hopefully my next job (which is still TBD) will allow for a bit more time to update this saucy little page.

Any who!  Now that I’ve given you excuse number 23940593 as to why I haven’t kept up to date on this, I’ve got to talk about one thing, and one thing alone:

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…that’s RISOTTO!!!  Ok not really…

It is one of my favorite dishes, especially in the fall and winter.  For a LONG time, I couldn’t order it in any restaurant because my dad’s is just so good.  When my parents would ask what I wanted for my birthday dinner? Time and time again? Dad’s risotto.  He made it with peas, mushrooms and shrimp and it always had a little kick to it.  This risotto was exactly how it should be; velvety, rich, comforting.  Because of my new found desire to educate myself in cooking and wine, and clearly being my father’s daughter, I had to attempt this!

Ive taken 2 attempts, the first was good…not great.  I used a textbook recipe just to learn so that the next time I could really make it delicious!  So, with no further ado, here is the cookie cutter risotto recipe I used with my own twists (in italics) on it:

Ingredients:

– 2 cups chicken broth (I use low sodium to keep this is BIT healthier)

– butter (making Paula Deen proud!)

– 1 cup Arborio rice

– 1/4 cup dry white wine

– 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp Mascarpone cheese

– salt

red pepper

– mushrooms

– peas, thawed if frozen

– one small onion

– garlic

Directions:

In one medium pan, bring 2 cups of chicken broth and 1/2 cup of water to a simmer, keep hot over low-med heat

– In one deep pan, melt a little more than a tablespoon of butter and add diced onion, garlic and mushrooms (Zach Morris Time Out: nothing smells better than onion and garlic cooking in melting butter, TIME IN).

– After onions have softened, add one cup Arborio rice, cover in the butter, garlic, mushrooms and onions, cook for 3-5 minutes

– Next, add 1/4 cup of dry white wine to rice, cook until fully absorbed

– After rice has absorbed the wine, ladle 1-2 spoonfuls of chicken broth to rice and cook until fully absorbed — continue doing this until all of the chicken broth has been used **be sure to be constantly stirring the risotto**

– After all the rice has absorbed the chicken broth, add peas

– After adding peas, add 2 tbsp of Parmesan cheese and 2 tbsp of Mascarpone cheese

– Add salt and red pepper to taste

This process might take up to 40 minutes, but I promise you, it’s worth it!  The risotto should looks creamy and velvety.  Also, if you don’t like spicy foods, change red pepper to regular pepper.  Quite simple!  I hope you enjoy this lovely fall/winter dish.  I am going to be making butternut squash risotto as a Thanksgiving side dish, so I will be SURE to let you know how that goes.  In the meantime, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

**Peas, Love and Making what your papa gave ya**

 

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Hometown Cookin’

July 31, 2010 at 7:44 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , )

If there’s one ingredient that needs to be in every recipe, in every dish, in every meal, it’s love.  You can ALWAYS tell, in anything, if love was not put into the effort.  This is absolutely, 100% true when it comes to cooking food.  I firmly believe that one of the reasons my dad’s food is so damn good is because he loves it.  That’s why some of the best cooking doesn’t have recipes.

While I was cooking my Albanian dish today and watching Top Chef and Food Network marathons, I had a couple other things going on just… well… because.  One thing my father did almost every Sunday was make tomato sauce.  Being my father’s daughter, I’ve always wanted to know how to make it.  The trick is…there is no right or wrong way to make it.  There’s no recipe for my dad’s tomato sauce, he just puts a ton of stuff in it until it tastes good!  Honestly!  So today, I made a meatless tomato sauce.  Because I’m trying to learn and hope you are too, I am willing to share what I put in the pot to make my delicious tomato sauce.  Don’t expect measurements though…making tomato sauce is all about taste.

In order to get there, here is what I did to make my own Fritalian Gravy.

Ingredients:

one onion

– mushrooms

– 2 cans tomato sauce

– 3/4 can tomato paste

– 3/4 can diced tomatoes

– red wine

– garlic

– garlic salt

– olive oil

– water

– LOTS of Italian spices

– love

Directions:

1. dice onions and mushrooms

2. Put about three counts of olive oil in the bottom of the pot and sweat the diced onions and mushrooms

3.  add the cans of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and about half a can of water

4. spice with italian seasoning, basil, oregano, garlic, etc to taste

5. bring to a boil then turn heat down and let simmer for a couple of hours, stirring occassionally

Letting the sauce stew for a couple hours really allows the spices to meld with the rest of the ingredients.

That’s really the  closest thing I can give you to a recipe for tomato sauce.  This is one of those things you really just have to feel and taste.  It sounds crazy, but I suggest you give it a try… there’s a little Italian in everybody 😉

**Tidbit for storage!!!  Freezing tomato sauce always works, but again, since I cook for one, one EXTREMELY helpful hint I learned was this:

Freezing sauce or pesto in ice cube trays is so helpful for single servings since you won’t have to thaw an entire jar or bag of tomato sauce just to refreeze it.

Now onto the other homemade dish I made today… homemade chicken salad.

This sounds a lot easier than it actually is to make.  When it comes to chicken salad, I prefer a pulled chicken rather than a diced.  So that’s exactly what I did!  Here’s a nice twist on a typical chicken salad recipe:

Ingredients:

one chicken breast

– mayo

– lemon juice

– Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce

– celery

– celery seed

– red onion

– almonds

Directions:

1. salt and pepper each side of the chicken, cook thoroughly, then let sit to cool

2.  while chicken is cooking, dice celery and red onion

3. pull the chicken (use a fork to hold the chicken, then use the back side of a spoon or a knife to pull along the grain of chicken to make it look shredded)

4. combine diced celery, red onion, shredded chicken, dash of celery seed

5. add a splash of lemon juice, this will enhance the colors and taste of everything in this chicken salad

6. add a dollop of sweet baby ray’s BBQ sauce

7. add mayo to taste and to bind everything together

8. fold a couple pinches of almonds into the chicken salad mix

9. store and let set and cool in fridge until ready to eat or the next day

This is another dish I understand there aren’t a lot of measurements, but it’s a dish made with love and one you have to make how you like it, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

Tomorrow I plan to roast some gutted red peppers and using that as the serving utensil for the chicken salad.  Sounds amazing right?!  I can’t wait to try it.  I’ll be sure to add a picture when it’s all complete.

Thanks for reading and as usual, until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

**Peas, Love and Ole Fashion Homecookin’**

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Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

May 24, 2010 at 8:41 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , )

So as I’ve mentioned before, I’m now living in Manchester, NH where, let’s face it, there’s not a restaurant with a notable chefs name to it in a 50 mile radius, yeap, Boston is the closest place you’ll find that.  While that makes Manch-Vegas sound totally glib, I really think its a good thing because it keeps me from eating out as often as I did… my bank account thanks me!  It also forces me to cook at home more which is actually really nice, I do enjoy it!  My problem is planning out what to make for dinner each night, so I always find myself mid-afternoon trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to make so I’m not stuck eating cereal for dinner… not that there’s anything wrong with that…

In order to sort of prevent a total loss for dinner, there’s a few things I ALWAYS keep in the freezer.  One of which is something everyone should always have in their freezer…chicken.  It’s too easy just to get some cutlets and put each into separate freezer bags.  Single serving chicken…done!  What’s also nice is when I come home for lunch, I can take one out of the freezer and have it thaw by the time I get home from work.

So last week, I ran into that problem… no ideas until I was about an hour from dinner time.  This was one of those just take what you have in the fridge and doo eeettt, and a pretty successful one if I may say so myself.   All you need is a bit of butter, basil, Parmesan, and garlic powder.  The best way to prepare this would be on a grill, but a frying pan also worked perfectly.

In a bowl, melt the butter and add freshly chopped basil, Parmesan and a pinch of garlic powder.  Mix it all together then brush the chicken on both sides with the mixture and place it on either the grill or in your pan.  Continue brushing the butter and basil on the chicken as it cooks and that’s it!  It’s really quite delicious.

With this dish, I made broccoli by sauteing it in some oil with red pepper flakes.  This added a nice kick to the dish and I love preparing broccoli in a pan to get some of the florets with a nice crunch on top.  For the starch I roasted some potatoes in olive oil and salt and pepper.  Quick and easy and most of the elements you have in your pantry/fridge already!  The white wine I had was very complimentary to the dish.  It was a 2006 Viognier which tends to be a little sweeter than my taste of white wine but still tasty.  As long as the white isn’t Riesling, I’m willing to try it with a nice meal.

So coming into this week, I really had a case of the Mondays and was all but depressed that Lost was done.  Luckily for me, this was the only season I watched live and I plan on watching every season from the beginning again…and again….and probably again.  Don’t get me started I could write an ENTIRE blog (not just a post, a full on BLOG) about that damn show.  So good… anyways.  Today, Monday in the afternoon, I had my usual epiphany…what…the hell… do I make…for dinner?!  Again, I ran for the freezer right before I finished my lunch and pulled out some chicken to thaw.  Now that I had my protein picked out, it was time to decide what to make.

Another thing I usually now keep in my fridge is pizza dough since we all know I’m trying to perfect the pizza.  Well tonight, well I think I’m getting the hang of it.  I have finally figured out my retro-oven…I have beaten it!!!  When it comes to pizza crust anyways…

**Important Tangent!!!: Here I am typing up this blog post after enjoying some delicious pizza I just made and the preview for The Karate Kid is on.  Now when I hear Karate Kid, I think Ralph Macchio, wax-on, wax-off, STRIKE FIRST, STRIKE HARD, NO MERCY SIR, bonnzzaaaiii! You get the picture… I don’t think of this:

Have any of you seen this preview yet?!?!?! Are they KIDDING?!  There’s remaking a movie, and there’s totally disrespecting and mucking up my childhood memories.  Thanks a lot Columbia Pictures. Tangent: fin.

So anyways, back to this thawed chicken and pizza dough now that I’ve gotten that off my chest.  Now there’s only one kind of pizza that chicken should show up on…okay only one outside of Matchbox’s chicken pesto AMAZINGNESS.  That one’s in a category all it’s own.  The other is a more common and loved pizza, the BBQ chicken pizza.  I had everything I needed to make this: chicken, pizza dough, BBQ sauce, red onion and cilantro.

I don’t need to spell out how to roll out the pizza dough, (though it has taken me a couple tries to finally figure out the quickest way to do that haha) so here’s a picture of the final product:

All it took was some BBQ sauce (and I like mine with a little kick to it), a nice mix of freshly shredded mozzarella and jalapeno pepper jack cheese, red onions and chicken.  The chicken I pan cooked in oil with just a seasoning of salt and pepper then shredded since I really don’t like cubed cut chicken (its a texture, consistency thing).  I added a drizzle of BBQ sauce on top of the pizza once everything was on right before putting it in the oven.

Now the one thing I would have changed is when I put the cilantro on the pizza.  Not thinking, I threw it on top before putting it in the oven, which cooked off some of the pungency and wilted it a bit, so if you don’t like a strong taste of cilantro this would work for you, but if you like a lot of cilantro, wait until after the pizza is done cooking and sprinkle it on right before you serve.

Well there’s 2 chicken dinners that are easy, cheap and quick…that’s what she said… yeahhh I went there.  Try them out, let me know what you think, what you’d change, add, make for a side dish.  I hope you enjoy them!  Until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

**Peas, Love, and Mr. Miyagi**

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I really gotta get better at this thing!

May 13, 2010 at 11:25 AM (Uncategorized) (, , )

Alright, alright, so I said the haitus was over… I was wrong.  Here I am almost 5 months to the day from my last post JUST opening this blog up for the first time since I wrote on Jan. 20.  I swear I need to get better at this thing.  Not just because I have ya know, you 2 readers (that means you Adam and Harry) but I really do have a passion for food and wine.  And I’d really like to get into it as a hobby, so until Food & Wine Magazine calls me to replace Gail on Top Chef  as a judge, I’ll just have to settle for a food and wine blog.

What helps is my dad has now recognized my passion for it… meaning he’s helping me learn the complexities of wine.  I went home to CT about three weeks ago where my dad has now made me the sommolier…I’m in charge of picking the wine.  He certainly knows more than I do, and hell, it’s his cellar so he knows what’s in there!  But I love the challenge.  He’s given me his password to Wine Spectator and I have been spending WAY too much time on websites like Snooth.com.  There I can rank, comment and even buy wine.  They sometimes like to put up recipes to pair with the wine they are showcasing that day/week.  Food and wine has truly been becoming a passion.  And yes I include recipes in this blog, but the more I think about it, the more I love just the taste of food.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking, but we all know there’s no shot in hell for me to ever become Sandra Lee or Giada DiLaurentiis.

Unfortunately for me, I have moved to a city where the food is…well…alright.  Trust me, this isn’t the place celebrity chefs come to open restaurants.  There are a couple places I could write about (and will) but it’s one thing I do really miss about DC, the food.  Luckily for me, I live less than an hour from Boston and have a boyfriend who lives in Providence where the Italian food is just…well the best.  Manchester also has a Farmer’s Market, thank GOD! Lord knows I couldn’t survive without one, Eastern Market was the best part of my Sundays.  Anyways, I do plan on keeping this up now and will definitely be including recipes as I go along.  I did venture out and make creamy champagne pork chops the other night so I’ll have to crack that back out and include it in here.  I’ve also been trying to perfect the pizza and calzone (some of you know it as stromboli) so I’ll keep updating the attempts at that!

Hopefully this blog will catch on, maybe catch someone’s eye, because let’s face it…I’m an English Lit major who loves food and wine whose losing interest in her current career…any takers?! No?! Okay. Maybe later…until then, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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Fall in the District

October 22, 2009 at 11:56 AM (Uncategorized) (, , )

So it’s officially fall in Washington, DC, meaning the weather jumps from 34 degrees one day, to 70 the next… its ridiculous.  Regardless of the weather, fall brings out my favorite smells and dishes!  It’s almost time for Thanksgiving which means all the food magazines are coming out with their “what to do with Turkey leftovers” editions, how to make cranberry sauce like you grandmother, and mashed potato secrets.  It’s also the time that the candle companies put out their autumn wreath, pumpkin, apple cider and fall leaves scented candles!  Seriously, it doesn’t get any better than that… or does it?

Fall also brings eggplant and pomegranate season!!!  Anyone who knows me knows that if pomegranate or goat cheese is involved, chances are, I’m going to order it.  Eggplant, while available all year round just seems like such a cozy meal for me, so I tend to gravitate towards it in the fall and winter.  At home, my favorite pizza is eggplant and onion pizza from Franco Gianni’s, which I was so excited to have last week one of my 2 recent trips up North.  Having the eggplant fresh on my mind, I decided while at the store getting my food for the week ahead and figuring out what to have for dinner that night, to get a baby eggplant and fry it with some mozzarella.  This dish is so tasty and another dish that you can make look expensive that is in fact, very reasonable.

Of course, as my starter, I made a delicious Caprese Salad:

IMG01315

Just some tomatoes from the vine, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and a ready made balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing.  I guess I could honestly say, if asked the question “what’s one dish you could eat for the rest of your life and never get tired of?” it would be this.  Easy, cheap, everyone should know how to make it… and it always just looks so pretty.

I was snacking on this while tending to my eggplant which I started by slicing into about quarter inch slices leaving the skin on.  The skin is full of antioxidants and turns that beautiful purple color when its all cooked.  Before I move ahead, here are the other ingredients I used:

– baby eggplant

– fresh mozzarella

– vodka sauce

– whole wheat penne pasta

– fresh basil

– one egg

– Italian bread crumbs

– about 1/2 cup of flour

– oil for cooking

Now, while this dish is easy you have to be VERY careful when heating the oil.  I would suggest using a pot or a very deep frying pan since you’ll need to cover the bottom of it with oil that will obviously get very hot and will start to sputter when you first put the eggplant down.

Alright, so back to actually cooking, after you’ve sliced the eggplant, coat each side with flour, then egg, then the breadcrumbs.  When you’ve done that, cover the bottom of the pot or pan with oil and turn to a medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, place the pieces of eggplant in gently and with some sort of utensil (not your own fingers!)  Turn eggplant once at first, allowing each side to get a nice crunchy brown color (I’d say about 3-4 minutes on each side), then turn the heat to low, you can keep flipping after the 3-4 minutes on each side to brown it to your tasting.  Place the leftover mozzarella you’ve sliced from your Caprese Salad and place a piece on each of the eggplants.  You can let the eggplant continue to cook and the cheese to melt as you make the pasta.

Since I’m assuming you all know how to make pasta, I’ll skip the obvious.  I do however suggest heating the sauce in a separate pot (or in a bowl in the microwave if you’re so inclined) before adding it to the dish.  It will cool the dish down immensely if you do not.  When your pasta and sauce are ready, lay the pasta down, then the eggplant then the sauce and top with some basil.

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I was cooking for one, so I had plenty of eggplant leftover.  If you do have leftovers, here’s a great suggestion.  The next day, I got a nice fresh sub roll, toasted it, heated some more sauce, placed the sauce in the roll and placed my leftover eggplant and mozzarella in the sub.  It was my own eggplant parmesan sandwich and damn was it good.

Now that I’ve shared my recipe for this week I have to let you know I’ve completely caught up on Top Chef Vegas, FINALLY!  And thank God most of the people I can’t stand are gone… except… Robin.  She’s awful and she never shuts the hell up!  I have to say though, listening to Mike I. and Laurine talk about her just cracks me up.  I loved the episode where they had to deconstruct dishes, and of course, when Mr. Charlie Palmer was the guest judge.  I spend way too much time in his restaurant in DC as it is on the ground floor of my office building.  It was great to see him on the show especially since the Volt brothers both worked for him.  I also learned I need to get to the Pigs and Pinot party he hosts every year in Vegas… someone please start working on that? Thanks.

Alrighty, I’m going to start dreaming up the next recipe I could throw together for another post.  Since it is almost Thanksgiving as I said before, it’s almost time for my grandmother’s cranberry and apple casserole so keep your eyes out for it!  Until then sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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